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Former President Obama commutes 330 inmates' sentences

Minnesota residents may be interested to learn that, on Jan. 19, then-president Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 federal inmates who had been convicted on various drug crimes. In total, he commuted the sentences of 1,715 inmates during his presidency.

Throughout his presidency, Obama had called upon Congress repeatedly to pass a criminal justice fix for those who were facing consequences that were far too harsh for the crimes. While lawmakers did not act, Obama was able to give some inmates a second chance. In order to be eligible for a commutation, inmates had to have already served 10 years of their sentence and had to have a history of good behavior while they remained in prison. Additionally, the inmates had to be considered nonviolent offenders, though having firearms violations did not automatically make them ineligible.

One inmate who had had his sentence commuted by Obama had been behind bars for 13 years. He had been charged with selling cocaine to an undercover officer, though it had actually been his brother who had sold the illegal substance. Although he will still not be released for two years and must enroll in a residential drug treatment program, he has already made plans to get licensed in a trade so that he could earn a living once he is free.

Depending on the drug charges that have been issued, potential consequences could include a prison sentence if a conviction is obtained. A criminal law attorney may construct a strong defense against the charges if it can be determined, for example, that the circumstances surrounding the arrest violated the defendant's constitutional rights.

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